Janelle Cammenga–Staff Writer
You may have heard the Greek myth of Eurydice, a tale of a woman who dies on her wedding day and a man who travels to the Underworld to try and save her.
But you haven’t seen it like this.
From April 30 to May 2, Dordt theatre will be performing Sarah Ruhl’s modern adaptation of the tragedy. But this version is more than modernized: It’s bizarre.
Eurydice enters the Underworld through an elevator that rains on the inside. She’s surrounded by talking stones who alternate between shouting, whispering and chucking their shoes at each other. There’s a room made of string and fruits that drop into a river (“perhaps only in our imagination,” according to the script).
Finally, in a surprising twist on the original myth, the god of the Underworld (sophomore Tom Oord) rides around on a tricycle.
Needless to say, designers had their work cut out for them. Sophomore Joshua Zietse, who designed the set, worked out a way to get actual water to rain down in the elevator. Sophomore Aidan Bender used his lighting design to convey a sense of movement, perfect for creating a flowing river.
Senior Annie Sears, who directs the play, began her search for a script the summer before her junior year. After a suggestion from theatre professor Josiah Wallace, she looked at Eurydice and loved it. She read piles of other plays, but kept coming back to Eurydice.
“It’s so language-heavy, and the poetry of it is really important,” Sears said.
Sears thought she fully understood the script before she started directing, but she “was surprised at how much more meaning we found every rehearsal,” she said.
Much of that learning comes from trying to interpret the script. The lines are so bizarre that they require a lot of creativity to give the whole thing a grounded and playable context.
Sometimes, the actors discover meanings that they never would have guessed. Other times, it results in ridiculousness.
“We just laugh so much,” Sears said.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Baljeu plays one of the rocks dwelling in the underworld.
“This is the first play that I’ve been in that I’ve gotten to use more of my physical abilities,” she said. “I’m not just walking around delivering lines; I’m rolling on the ground and throwing shoes. As an actor, it’s been stretching me a lot more to be present in every moment, especially since I don’t have a lot of dialogue.”
Still, something has to tie all of these disparate actions, lines and stage elements together. And that something, according to Sears, is theme.
“We latched onto the theme of, ‘What do we have if not what we remember?’” Sears said. “‘What do we base our identity on?’”
This idea can be found in the struggles of the characters of the play, but also in the concept of the play’s very existence.
“It ties into the idea of myth, and why this story—that’s so old—still gets told today,” said Sears. She sees parallels between the myth they’re telling and the Christian myth. For example, the events in the Bible occurred so long ago, but we still tell them and live our lives by them.
Although Sears has directed a One Act at Dordt and several plays for children, teens and adults back home, this is her first full-length and fully realized show.
“Everyone has been patient with me as a learning director, and so patient with each other,” she said.
If nothing else, Sears encourages students to come to the play to understand the context of the quotes on the trifolds adorning the Commons’ and Grille’s tables.
“It’s likely different than anything the audience has seen before,” said Sears. She mostly wants people to come watch the show to see “what theatre can be and what it can do.”